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Game #54 Preview: Centers of the Future

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The Wolves take on the Pelicans as Karl Anthony-Towns and Anthony Davis face off once again.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Pelicans (20-33) at Timberwolves (20-33)

Target Center

7:00 CST. FS North

Tonight, the Wolves battle another team that has been languishing in the vapid Western Conference morass, the six teams who may or may not be any better than each other that comprises the Nuggets, Trailblazers, Kings, Mavericks, Pelicans, and Timberwolves. These teams have moved up and down throughout the year, with several different teams claiming the 8th seed at one point or another, but no team has had much luck with separating themselves from the pack.

The Wolves’ previous games against the Pelicans was an embarrassment, one where the Wolves lost on November 23rd, 96 -117, and Anthony Davis was another example of an opposing big demolishing the Wolves’ interior defense as he put up 45 points on 17 of 27 shooting.

Anthony Davis, one may say, is rather good at Basketball. This year, he is averaging an absurd 27.6 points, 12.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 2.5 blocks per game, all at the age of 23. He is perhaps one of the only young players in the NBA that can claim to have a brighter, or equally bright, future than the Timberwolves’ own Karl Anthony-Towns.

In fact, when looking at the second seasons of Towns and Davis, they are really quite similar.

  • Davis: 20.8 points ppg, 10 rpg, 1.6 apg, and 2.8 bpg, while shooting 51.9 percent from the field
  • Towns: 23.5 ppg, 11.9 rpg, 2.9 apg, and 1.6 bgp, while shooting 51.3 percent from the field.

Notably, Towns has the ability to shoot threepointers, and is averaging 3.4 attempts per game at 34.6 percent, but Davis certainly has a defensive advantage over Towns.

In terms of their advanced stats, Davis certainly holds the advantage, but Towns is the more dominant offensive player.

  • Davis: .212 WS/48, 2.3 OBPM, 2.2 DBPM, 4.5 BPM, and 3.9 VORP
  • Towns: .177 WS/48, 3.5 OBPM, 0.8 DBPM, 4.3 BPM, and 3.1 VORP

However, the Pelicans are certainly an example of a problematic approach to building around a budding superstar. While the team has struggled with injuries over the course of Anthony Davis’ career, of which he has also has suffered several nagging injuries, the Pelicans have not been able to build a competitive playoff team around Davis.

Instead, the Pelicans have repeatedly put their future in jeopardy year-after-year. This continued during the recent off-season which saw the Pelicans pursue a strategy of filling out their roster with several mid-tier free agents, a method that some wished the Wolves had pursued.

Now, the Pelicans have committed several 4-year contracts to Solomon Hill and E’Twaun Moore, in hopes that these players would continue to develop and serve as serviceable Wings for the team. Adding in Omer Asik’s contract, the team is rather financially limited for the near future and in the upcoming year they will have to figure out what to do about Jrue Holiday, who will be an unrestricted free agent.

Holiday is playing quite well this year when healthy and has likely played himself into a nice contract. However, if the Pelicans end up being the team that gives him that contract, they are essentially committing to Davis, Hill, Moore, Asik, and Holiday until the 2019-2010 season (barring trades of course), which is a future that would pain any fan that does not want to see their team stuck in mediocrity.

Pelican fans, and their own GM, would likely quickly trade places with the Wolves’ simply for their financial flexibility. As fans in Minnesota are quite aware, a long-suffering NBA Star player may find it is in their best interest to not be suffering for long.

As for tonight, the Pelicans come into this game have lost five of their last six games, with the sole win coming against the hapless Suns. This is certainly a game that the Wolves should win, as they really are a better team than the Pelicans, who are also dealing with their own series of injuries.

Injuries for Tonight

Pelicans

Questionable: Tyreke Evans (left ankle sprain) and Terrence Jones (right thumb sprain)

Doubtful: E’Twaun Moore (personal)

Out: Alexis Ajinca (personal) Quincy Pondexter (left knee)

Timberwolves

Questionable: Kris Dunn (Hand)

Out: Zach LaVine (knee), Adreian Payne (illness), and Nikola Pekovic (ankle)

Starting Lineups

Timberwolves

Ricky Rubio

Andrew Wiggins

Brandon Rush

Gorgui Dieng

Karl Anthony-Towns

Pelicans

Jrue Holiday

Buddy Hield

Solomon Hill

Terrence Jones

Anthony Davis

Four Factors

As we always do in game previews, let’s take a look at how the Wolves and Pelicans match up using the Four Factors. Reminder, the Four Factors are effective field goal percentage (eFG%), turnover percentage (TOV%), offensive rebounding percentage (ORB%), and free throw rate (FTR).

Factor / Wolves / Pelicans

eFG% / 50.9% / 49.6%

TOV% / 13.2 / 11.6

ORB% / 27.1% / 18.5%

FTR / .224 / .186

The offensive rebounding rate jumps out here and the Wolves should dominate the glass tonight. If Terrence Jones suits up, it will be interesting to see how the Wolves’ frontcourt deals with a more athletic opponent in Jones and Davis.

Prediction: Wolves win 110-102

The Wolves should win this game. They are at home, have more depth (which is not common), and have more talent across the board. Really, the only players that should give them any trouble are Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis. Of course, Davis could just have one of his supernova games and decimate the Wolves. However, we haven’t had an Andrew Wiggins scoring explosion in quite some time and this could be a matchup that he could take advantage of.